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Ukrainian first lady considers Hunka matter ‘resolved’

In a Canadian exclusive interview with Adrienne Arsenault, Olena Zelenska said it was unfortunate the vetting process ahead of her husband's official visit allowed for the House of Commons to applaud a Ukrainian Canadian who fought with a Nazi unit.

Olena Zelenska says Parliament's recognition of man who fought for Nazi unit was used by Russia for propaganda

Olena Zelenska sits in front of a laptop wearing wireless earphones, with a Ukrainian flag in the background

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska believes Ukraine and Canada have put the Yaroslav Hunka affair behind them, she said in her first public comments on the matter since her visit to Canada last fall.

In a Canadian exclusive interview, Zelenska said it was unfortunate the vetting process allowed for a standing ovation in the House of Commons for Hunka — a Ukrainian Canadian who fought with a Nazi unit during the Second World War — during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit in September.

Speaking through a translator, Zelenska told CBC News chief correspondent Adrienne Arsenault this week that Ukraine's delegation had no input into who was invited to Parliament.

"Of course, we couldn't control who would be invited to the Canadian Parliament. We couldn't give our guidance," she said.

"It's bad that we conducted our research afterward, and not the people who had invited him to Parliament."

She said she wasn't sure if a formal apology had been given.

"I can't say for sure, but I think that yes, at the official diplomatic level, this matter was somehow resolved," Zelenska said.

WATCH | Hunka scandal 'resolved,' says Zelenska:

Ukrainian president's wife on Hunka controversy

2 hours ago

Duration 0:37

Olena Zelenska said it was 'bad' that the people who invited a Ukrainian Second World War veteran who fought for Nazi Germany to Canada's Parliament didn't do their research.

She also highlighted how Russia used the incident as a propaganda tool.

"Indeed, this is yet another example of Russia using every opportunity to discredit us," she said. "Any moment, any chance."

Life-or-death situation

The interview comes nearly two years after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Defence experts say the country is facing a shortage of ammunition and troops, and new aid from the United States and European Union has been slow in coming.

Zelenska said that aid to Ukraine is a matter of life and death for the country's civilians and soldiers.

"I would really like to wish for all politicians who make any decision to remember that they are not just making a political decision," she said. "At that moment in time, they are deciding the fate of every Ukrainian child, woman or man."

WATCH | Zelenska calls for more aid to Ukraine:

'Every political decision has Ukrainian lives at stake,' says president's wife

2 hours ago

Duration 0:33

Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said they continue to 'hope for the best' when it comes to foreign aid for the embattled country.

One critical element of military protection is air defence, Zelenska said.

"We need air defence systems to protect our cities," she said. "If they are not in place, there is no protection. There is no normal life, no hope that people will stop dying."

Canada announced plans to donate a $406-million surface-to-air missile defence system last January, but a year later, it is still not clear when it will be delivered.

'Parenting cannot be done over the phone'

Zelenska also spoke about howthe constant bombardment of Ukraine's major cities, such as Kyiv, Odessa and Kharkiv, has uprooted Ukrainians' lives over the past two years.

She spoke candidly about the everyday family things that Ukrainian families — including hers — no longer get to experience.

WATCH | Zelenska on challenges of family life during war:

Zelenskyy's family cherishing every moment they get together

2 hours ago

Duration 0:39

Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says their family — like many others in Ukraine — doesn't get to spend much time together because of the ongoing war.

"We're trying to squeeze out all the positive emotions that we can get from every moment when we are all together," she said. "Of course, we miss peaceful family dinners when we don't have to keep track of time."

She also reflected on how her husband's job continues to impact her children's upbringing.

"I would like their father to be able to give them more of his attention," she said. "We just simply miss conversations. Parenting cannot be done over the phone."

WATCH | Zelenska on living under constant bombardment:

Ukrainian president's wife fights against 'fatigue and fatalistic thoughts'

2 hours ago

Duration 0:35

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's wife, Olena Zelenska, says she feels it is her responsibility to be an example for fellow Ukrainians, even though it's not always easy to resist negative emotions due to the war.

Despite the challenges Ukraine is facing, she said there is also determination to keep fighting for the future of the country.

"Our soldiers are fighting now so that our children will not have to fight."

Watch the full interview with Olena Zelenska tonight on The National: 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and CBC News Explore, and 10 p.m. local (10:30 p.m. NT) on CBC and Gem.

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